Friday, 8 February 2013

Music for Babies and Toddlers

Are we aware of the importance of music in young children's learning?

The other day I bought a new keyboard for my babies and toddlers. We had one last year and the children and parents loved it.  The children are free to go to the keyboard at any time of the day and press the keys or the buttons. The keyboard produces a huge range of sounds, particularly the sounds of various instruments and also has several tunes that the children can listen to and move to. They are loving it. I've nicknamed one toddler 'Beethoven' because he uses both hands and goes for it! We move to the tunes together. Sometimes the children will press one key and listen to the sound. I will sing the note, matching the pitch so that they can hear it. Sometime I will hum along to the tunes. One of my friends at work said that the keyboard was the most valuable piece of equipment in the room. I told her that that was why I bought it. I think some people underestimate the importance of music in young children's learning.

Children are exposed to, and develop an understanding of sound, pitch, rhythm, tempo and dynamics through musical play and learning experiences. This gives them the ability to later play and enjoy music and singing (which is fantastic for health and wellbeing). Developing musical awareness is only one part of the story though. In order to learn to communicate verbally babies and young toddlers have to learn to differentiate between different sounds. Becoming familiar with the patterning and pitch of musical phrases and sequences supports children in recognising and understanding the natural phrases and patterns of speech. This will assist them later in speaking, reading and writing.

Music is one of the art forms that enables us to connect with, and channel our emotions in a positive way. It can make us feel calm and focussed, or joyful and uninhibited. It encourages us to move our bodies, promoting physical skills such as coordination, balance and strength.  The keyboard is one way of facilitating musical learning. Singing, dancing, musical games, playing instruments and listening to music are other ways. This is something we should embrace on a daily basis with our children. Let's just go for it - and have fun!

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